Homeland Security keeps cybersecurity role

Changes at the White House don't lighten the load for DHS

President Barack Obama’s decision to appoint a cybersecurity coordinator in the White House doesn’t appear to be the Homeland Security Department’s loss.

Since Obama announced the new position May 29, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has appointed new senior cybersecurity officials and announced that the DHS deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) will also oversee the department’s National Cybersecurity Center.

NCSC is an organization designed to improve coordination of cybersecurity operations across the government's civilian, military and intelligence cyber domains. Administration officials have said the new White House office will coordinate policy.

Meanwhile, Rand Beers, Obama’s pick to lead the programs directorate — the organization that oversees DHS’ cybersecurity efforts — said in his confirmation hearing earlier this month that he’d been assured by the administration that the new cybersecurity coordinator will not undercut the department's role in cybersecurity. Philip Reitinger, NPPD’s deputy undersecretary who also heads NCSC, said he welcomed the announcement of the new coordinator position in the White House and that DHS would work effectively with that new official and other agencies on cybersecurity.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee also approved a budget that would give $382 million to DHS’ National Cybersecurity Division in fiscal 2010, up from $313 million for fiscal 2009. The administration is requesting $400.7 million.

The support for DHS’ leadership role in federal cybersecurity comes after outside analysts and some lawmakers publicly questioned for months whether DHS was up to the task. And although Congress hasn’t yet approved a final fiscal 2010 budget for the department and the administration has yet to explain how its new strategy will divvy various cybersecurity responsibilities among federal agencies, the budget and public statements indicate DHS is likely to retain a big role.


About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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